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KQED Awarded $3 Million for Millennials and Science Project

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $3 million grant to Northern California PBS and NPR station KQED and its partners to study how best to engage millennials with science news and media. The project, “Cracking the Code: Influencing Millennial Science Engagement,” is being co-directed by scholars affiliated with the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC).

The KQED project, which runs through September 2021, will adapt and expand on science curiosity research from former APPC postdoctoral fellow Asheley Landrum and former APPC visiting scholar Dan Kahan to improve science engagement and reach new or underengaged audiences. The project is also based in part on a survey conducted last winter by APPC postdoctoral fellow Matthew Motta.

KQED said the main goals of the project are to:

  • Identify and analyze the interests, motivations and behaviors of millennials and their media habits in relation to various types of science content;
  • Test a range of public media science content, including text, audio, graphics and video, using multiple media platforms, audience research, and engagement tactics to learn how to better meet millennials’ needs around scientific news and information;
  • Develop a set of best practices for journalists and media companies to reach and engage millennials with science media by leveraging the combined expertise of science media professionals and science communication academics.

Heading up the project are Landrum and Sue Ellen McCann of KQED’s science unit, in consultation with Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School’s Cultural Cognition Project. Landrum, now at the Science Communication and Cognition Lab of Texas Tech University, said, “Dan and I are excited to use our extensive research on the science of science communication and science curiosity as a springboard for helping KQED and the overall public media system figure out how best to optimize their great science content for engaging millennials.” Kahan added, “It is a tremendously gratifying experience to be working with KQED on this project. This is exactly the sort of collaboration between scholars and professional communicators needed to advance the science of science communication.”

KQED organized an exploratory national survey of millennial science media habits in the spring and summer of 2018, conducted by Jacobs Media Strategies in collaboration with Landrum, Kahan, and a number of media partners, including NPR News, PBS NewsHour, and Scientific American. Last winter, a second survey, commissioned by KQED and led by Texas Tech University and the Cultural Cognition Project, was conducted by Motta and supported in part by APPC. The results of both surveys can be found here.

For more information about the “Cracking the Code” project, read KQED’s news release here. The project’s website will feature regular updates and findings, as well as the final report.